Archive for the ‘Rabelais Newsletter’ Category

So what’s good this season?

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013
‘Tis the season of annual lists and lists and more lists (and even more lists). As the years go by, I appreciate certain things about these lists, like the fact that no matter how plugged in we are to the cookbook world, something interesting sneaks by us. But what’s really been happening is I now realize that these lists are not so meaningful, not because they are ‘wrong’, but because what’s ‘right’ about them is not right for everyone. Open any one of these things up for discussion, and it becomes clear that there is little consensus on how people use cookbooks, what people expect from cookbooks and even what some of the basic terms mean. A recent request by Russ Parsons for input on just such a list was a good example of this.

So this year, we’re just offering a short list  of a few books we like our selves. These books work for the way we like to eat and cook. They encourage and inspire us, and are a pleasure to spend time with. we carry these books in our shop, but not on our website, as there are plenty of options for buying new books online.

Two of my favorite new British books are by authors I always look forward to reading: Simon Hopkinson and Nigel Slater. Slater’s original, The Kitchen Diaries, is one of my most used cookbooks because it’s a perfect match for the way I cook; it mirrors the rhythms of the seasons and of the meals through the week. Kitchen Diaries II (or as it’s known in the States, Notes from the Larder) lets me continue into a new year.   Simon Hopkinson’s dishes always seem like old favorites, and with a bit of extra care I can elevate my cooking to something more special. The recipes in Simon Hopkinson Cooks are a bit simpler than in my favorite, Week In, Week Out, but I still approach every one of his recipes with relish.

Tim Hayward, editor of the wonderful periodical (now annual) Fire & Knives, gave us Food DIY, a how-to guide to all of the food creation that happens outside of kitchen meal prep: smoking, terrines, confits, preserving, clam bakes, spit roasting, and sloe gin among other things. It’s kind of a guy thing, and lots of fun.

I always seem to be cooking for eight, even when I’m cooking for two, but Joe Yonan’s Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook is terrific. Lots of simple recipes that yield big flavor through interesting, and now-to-me indispensable, combinations. Pasta with Squash and Miso, Guac-a-chi (avocados and kimchi), and Spicy Kale Salad with Miso-Mushroom omelet are all easy and delicious. And we have signed copies available.

Gabriel Rucker et al’s  Le Pigeon: Cooking at the Dirty Bird was instantly attractive, as I love cooking birds, and there are lots of tasty bird recipes to be had, including Chicken Fried Quail, Duck Nuggets, and Maple-Laquered Squab. But there’s also a lot more, including good rabbit recipes, the now famous Jacked Pork Chops, and other food you want to eat while standing around a flaming barrel clutching a tumbler of bourbon.

There are more big chef books this year than any year since 2008, which makes me nervous for the economy. I had limited time with all of them, as many are very new releases and take real work to tease out any understanding, but I’m thrilled to see Heston Blumenthal’s Historic Heston, a companion of sorts to his thoroughly modern masterwork, The Fat Duck Cookbook. In Historic Heston, the chef takes us on a 500-year chronological tour of great British dishes, which he has deconstructed and reassembled with the precision you’d expect. As an antiquarian, and a serious home cook, I look forward to spending some real time with this book. On the tables in the shop, we also have Rene Redzepi’s Work in Progress, Daniel Patterson’s Coi, Alex Atala’s D.O.M., David Kinch’s Manresa and others.

I’m a big fan of Ole Mouritsen’s Seaweeds: Edible, Available and Sustainable. It’s a masterpiece of single subject food writing. Part natural science book, part recipe collection, and part guidebook for potential food applications, Seaweeds remains readable and enjoyable even if seaweed is not a favorite ingredient. This book doesn’t just satisfy curiosity about its subject, it creates curiosity.

The one book this year that truly makes me happy to be a cookbook seller is Ed Behr’s 50 Foods. I’ve always marveled at the level of knowledge food shoppers in parts of Europe can exhibit. They really know what to look for, ask for, demand from the market sellers and grocers. Very few Americans have that sort of specific information about the uses of various ingredients, and what to look for when shopping for them. Ed Behr knows this well. In 50 Foods, he takes us on a tour of fifty foods that we need to understand if we want to cook and eat better. the writing is knowledgable, the tone is never preachy, and even the hard core food fan will come away with a better understanding of what makes great food.

There are others I’m excited about but have not yet spent enough time with, so let’s just say I look forward to cooking from Susan Goin’s A.O.C., and David Tani’s One Good Dish, among others.

The Holiday Season

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

It’s no coincidence that the darkest, longest nights of the year bring some of the biggest, most sumptuous celebrations of the year. Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve bridge the gap between the harvest plenty and the scarcity of the long cold months. The later three feast days find their roots in the Winter Solstice, the turning point in the calendar after which the days start to lengthen.  To celebrate the season, we offer a short list of interesting and enjoyable books about food and drink, including dining guides, cocktail manuals, fine press editions of great food writing, signed books, classic children’s cookbooks, and more.Remember that in addition to the rare and unusual books we stock, we carry a large selection of contemporary new cookbooks, both domestic and imported, and are happy to ship anywhere in the world.We look forward to seeing many of you over the coming weeks and in the New Year, and we really do appreciate your continued interest and support.

June 1st, 2012

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012


Rabelais News   ~   June 1st, 2012

Chalk wall

Copper fish pot
Jonesing for some Rabelais talk? We have had a blog for years, but honestly we were desultory bloggers.  We spent more time talking with folks in the store than writing.  Now that we spend more time by ourselves, we still have plenty to say, so it goes on the blog. You can find our musings at Rumblings.  We’re going to be re-designing the blog in the near future, so let us know what you think of it now. We’d love some feedback.

“You’ll never get a good party going without giving things a bit of a push. It boils down to the same formula most times: good setting; good food, good drink and plenty of goodwill, as is right at this time of year. “

Michael Smith
It’s warm. It’s a relief.  It has been a bit rainy, but then that’s Spring in Maine. At least this is seasonally appropriate warmth.  The Winter passed pretty uneventfully in terms of cold, the grey gloom can be oppressive nonetheless. When it finally warms up consistently all I want to do is get outdoors.  So what happens when the temperature rises?

Well, green things get planted in the ground.  Our peas are about a foot tall, the taters are a good four inches up, and the first crops of carrots and beets have emerged.  The tomatoes were planted last night. We’ve already had a salad or two of greens and our volunteer cilantro is quite out of control this year. A bed full of greens was planted last weekend, as well as one of shell beans, and a teepee full of pole beans. In the fragrant department we have planted all sorts of smelly stuff: Mignonette; Sweet Peas; Lemon Gem Marigolds; Alyssum and, coming this weekend, the Roses!  We like to spend a lot of time outdoors on our patio during the Spring/Summer/Fall seasons so it’s nice to have a green space to surround us.

The other thing that happens when it gets warm is that we eat outdoors as often as possible. The grills get a good work out, as does the picnic table.  We had folks out last weekend and the menu included stinging nettle pancakes, local asparagus (not ours yet), artichoke gratin, and grilled calamari.  A slightly eclectic menu, I’ll give you that, but tasty nonetheless.  The grilled calamari is one of my new favorite ways to cook those creatures. I do love me some fried calamari with tartar sauce, but honestly hate cooking with all that oil.  What do you do with the oil when you’re done cooking?  Cooking the wee beasties outdoors, lightning fast on the grill is a very close second for me.  And way cleaner.
RC Fish squidI found this recipe in The River Cottage Fish Book, another in the brilliant series from the British author Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. We’ve been  importing the book from the U.K. for a few years, but now the title is available from an American publisher, Ten Speed Press (who published The RC Meat and The RC Cookbook), and we’ve got a pile of them here on one of the metal tables.River Cottage Fish  Also newly in stock is the new Mugaritz book from Spanish chef Andoni Luis Aduriz.  Published by Phaidon, who brought us The Silver Spoon and a number of Ferran Adria cookbooks, this is a lovely tome full of truly inspirational, and aspirational, food. Andoni is a bright innovative chef, part of the breed of Modern Spanish chefs who push the boundaries of the kitchen, and the plate. The restaurant’s website is phenomenal, we so need to go back to Spain… Also in stock is Sandor Ellix Katz’s new The Art of Fermentation, which expands greatly from his classic Wild Fermentation, for all you fermenting types. This weekend is unfortunately forecast for a ton of rain, so there won’t be much outdoor cooking going on at our place.  But if you get the bug for a new cookbook, come visit Biddeford.  We’re here Saturday from 11:00 to 5:00. We’ve got loads of inspiration for both the cooks and the gardeners.

A brief clarification of our hours.  The doors are officially open on Saturday, and then by appointment for the rest of the week.  That means if you really need to get a look at the new Mugaritz book and can only get down on Tuesday, give us a call.  If we are here, you can come on down. Chances are pretty good that we can make arrangements for a visit.  We are still carrying the best and the brightest modern in-print cookbooks from past and present.


fine books on food, drink, farming & gardening


2 Main Street  #18-214  Biddeford  Maine  04005  207 774 1044

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May 1st

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Rabelais News   ~   May 1st, 2012

Chalk wall

CSA anyone?
Black Kettle Farm
If you haven’t already signed up I believe there are still shares available at our neighbors in Lyman, Black Kettle Farm.  Check out their website for more info.

Italian Pottery
Jonesing for some Rabelais talk? We have had a blog for years, but honestly we were desultory bloggers.  We spent more time talking with folks in the store than writing.  Now that we spend more time by ourselves, we still have plenty to say, so it goes on the blog. You can find our musings at Rumblings.  We’re going to be re-designing the blog in the near future, so let us know what you think of it now…

“First prepare the soup of your choice and pour it into a bowl. Then, take the bowl and quickly turn it upside down on the cookie tray. Lift the bowl ever so gently so that the soup retains the shape of the bowl.
Gently is the key word here. Then, with the knife cut the soup down the middle into halfs, then quarters, and gently reassemble the soup into a cube. Some of the soup will run off onto the cookie tray.  Lift this soup up by the corners and fold slowly into a cylindrical soup staff. Place the packet in your purse or inside coat pocket, and pack off to work. “

Steve Martin

The countdown begins.  May twelfth we will re-open the doors of our new home to you lovely people.  Less than two weeks.  As we said previously this will be a soft opening, or in industry parlance, a friends & family opening.  We invite you all to come (although not all at once) but this will not be a grand opening celebration.

We will have a real party in the very near future and you will all be invited to that. But for the time being we really just want to get our doors open. You know how you can futz with things endlessly until they look just right?  Well, who knows if we will ever look just right, but we do need a deadline to work against.  So May 12th it is.  We will have some nibbles and sips, Raleigh will be waiting eagerly by the door and Don and I will have smiles on our faces for having made the transition. The hours will be 11:00 to 5:00.
The huge mountain of boxes is getting smaller and smaller day by day.  After some questionable moments, I do believe we will have room for it all.  Well, I guess I should say shelf space.  There is plenty of room in here.  Walking from one end of the space to the other takes a full minute.  Enough time so that you want to make sure you know what you are going over there for… We had thought that our new shelving would house all of the books, but it became glaringly obvious that we would need to use some of the shelving from Middle Street. We have integrated the Metro shelving with the wood shelves quite well I think.  We hung out our shingle the other day so now you can see where to find us from down the hall.

The Stainless steel tables will hold the new stock, in piles, same as in the old place. We have some stacks that we moved, but orders for brand new titles have been placed and inventory should start arriving any day now.  We’ve got the newest issue of Kinfolk and the Lucky Peach #4 is on the way.  Nigel Slater’s Tender Vol.II, renamed Ripe in the US is coming, as is the Sugar Shack book from Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal.  There are many more new titles on their way, most scheduled to arrive by May 12th.

Starting with the 12th, we will be open every Saturday from 11:00 to 5:00.  If those hours don’t work for you at all we will also be available by appointment.  We are in the space most days, but busy with cataloguing and the like. If you can’t make a Saturday, give us a call.  Chances are we can make arrangements.

We are very excited to start this new phase of Rabelais. Do come by on the 12th, we are looking forward to seeing you!


fine books on food, drink, farming & gardening

2 Main Street  #18-214  Biddeford  Maine  04005  207 774 1044

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Rabelais Newsletter 3/19/12

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012
These warm days have got me thinking garden.  It was only last week that I ordered my seeds, but they arrived swiftly on our doorstep from some of our favorite seed companies: Fedco Seeds; Johnny’s Selected Seeds and High Mowing Seeds.  We are ready for turning over soil, finding out how the compost survived the winter(?), scraping back mulch coverings.  Out the windows from the back of the house a tinge of red is visible on the tops of trees.  The grass on the edge of our neighbors’ property, the neighbors who mow obsessively, unlike us, is turning green.  Color is returning to the landscape.  The warmer temperatures bring odors of earth and water and sap that I haven’t smelled in months.  It was a very mild winter here in Maine.  Of course now that I say that we will get hit with a late Spring snowstorm… It’s a little hard to believe that Spring is upon us, Tuesday is the vernal equinox, since we barely had any Winter weather to harden us up.  I keep expecting to see the garlic, which I planted very late in mid-November, poking up.  Not yet, but any day now at this rate.

In anticipation of our vegetable garden activities we have registered for a symposium at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington DC entitled Food and the City. “The intricate interrelationship between urban context and food production, central to the current debate on sustainability, will be the focus of the 2012 Garden and Landscape Studies symposium at Dumbarton Oaks.” We are very excited for this opportunity to learn more about the diverse examples of urban agriculture both in the modern and historical context. If you’re curious about the conference there is more information on their website.

Copper fish pot

If you follow modern farming news you heard how the suit against Monsanto brought by independent American small farmers was dismissed in February. We find this very troubling, mostly because Monsanto is patenting life with many of its seed varieties and then suing small independent farmers when they inadvertently grow similar varieties due to blow over. This issue is better covered in Food Inc. a movie we highly recommend if you want an overview of what’s going on in modern food systems. The suit was a more involved story, but this decision was another example of big business (big farming) squashing the little guy.  What with school systems feeding kids pink slime and all, you have to wonder how they get away with all this.

Coming down off my soapbox, I will just re-state our belief in our local farmers and food producers and encourage all to “know your farmer, know your food”.

wall and flyer

Boxes are being unpacked.  Sections are being assigned. This may be hard to believe, but we may still have more books than we have shelf space for.  We are >this far< from announcing our re-opening. The thinking at this point is call it a soft opening.   We’d really like to open our doors to our lovely customers, even though there is still so much to be done to this fantastic space.  Windows are open today and we are anticipating the doors open and the space filled with food and book lovers.

afternoon light in the kitchen
We have recently heard of a couple of local job opportunities.  If you are looking for work, give us a call, or send us an email.

Afternoon light in the Mill.